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Building an NCI-Designated Cancer Center


Below: Andrea Brown, MBA, Associate Director of Administration for the MCW Cancer Center, explains NCI-designation to MCW and Froedtert staff. 

On September 5 and October 9 over 100 staff and faculty from MCW and Froedtert met to learn more about the MCW Cancer Center’s path to National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designation. 

Andrea Brown, MBA, the Associate Director of the MCW Cancer Center, gave two 1-hour presentations to provide clarification and help dispel myths about NCI-designation, including what it is, what it is not, why it is important, what the process looks like, and the six essential characteristics of all NCI-designated Cancer Centers.

When it comes to teaching others about NCI-designation and the Cancer Center Support Grant, the mechanism to achieve designation, Andrea is uniquely qualified.  She has been a part of successfully leading two other Cancer Centers through the NCI-designation process; Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University in St. Louis, and most recently, Hollings Cancer Center at the University of South Carolina. 

Andrea Brown:

The first thing people need to understand about the NCI-designation process is that it’s really just a grant -- the Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG).  Now, this grant is remarkably complex, but the bottom line is that our success in achieving NCI-designation is dependent on how well we translate the science and work of the Cancer Center membership, into the grant format. 

There are two types of NCI-designated Cancer Centers.  The first level, and what we are currently working toward, is the NCI-designated Cancer Center.  The next level of designation is the NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center.  I think the word comprehensive is somewhat confusing. Comprehensive status, in terms of NCI-designation means you have reasonable depth and breadth of RESEARCH activities in each of three major areas - laboratory, clinical, and population-based research.

If there is one thing I’d like to impart about this process, it is that our path to NCI-designation is about our infrastructure and ability to support and optimize cancer research. 

After designation, a Cancer Center’s clinical affiliations typically see at least a 10% halo effect in growth in patient volume and find that the designation enhances clinical marketing ability.  In addition our outstanding clinical affiliations with Froedtert Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Zablocki VA Medical Center, the BloodCenter of Wisconsin, and others, allow the Cancer Center to achieve better breadth and depth in translational and clinical research.

I want to share what the NCI is looking for when evaluating the MCW Cancer Center for NCI-designation.  The Cancer Center Support Grant lists six essential characteristics of NCI-designated Cancer Centers.  These characteristics are:

  1. Facilities
  2. Organizational Capabilities
  3. Trans-Disciplinary Collaboration & Coordination
  4. Cancer Focus
  5. Institutional Commitment
  6. Center Director

As we continue to move forward toward NCI-designation, I encourage you to contact me with any questions or to discuss this process in more detail.  We have some significant milestones coming up very quickly and it’s important to me that MCW faculty and staff feel they are a part of this process.  Thank you for your time and support of the MCW Cancer Center.”